Debt: Like Running with a Ball and Chain

Via Flickr by user Tim Green. Used under Creative Commons License

Picture this: You’ve been imprisoned (unjustly) for the last five years. After some hard work and Shawshank Redemption style scheming, you’ve found a way out. Your plan is foolproof — you know when the guards change shifts, how to sneak out of the cell block, and where to find that small hole in the outer fence. There’s just one hitch… the thirty-pound iron ball chained to your ankle.

Is escape possible? Sure, you can bust out, even with your arms full of added weight. But sooner or later, the prison guards are going to notice that you’ve gone missing, and they’ll come after you with a pack of dogs and pepper spray. You’re not going to move very quickly with a weight shackled to your ankle. You may try to bring along a file, and slowly shave off the sides of the ball and chain until they wear down to nothing. But chances are, you’ll never make it that long — with something so heavy weighing you down, your oppressors will catch you before you can rid yourself of the weight.

So it is with debt, a financial problem that has become so commonplace that it is the norm for American families, businesses and the government itself. And in case you haven’t noticed, our collective debt load has been slowing us down a lot.

What’s wrong with debt? Well, everything. I once heard someone say that debt is using your future to pay for your past. And the Bible makes it clear that debt puts us into financial slavery.

In America, we tend to think that using debt is the best way to make big purchases, from education to cars and everything in between. The reality, though, is that debt actually lessens our buying power, since the interest that we pay to service the debt adds up to much more than the cost of the item we purchased.

For those of us trying to run to godly financial freedom, debt can be one of the biggest things encumbering us. It’s like trying to run with that 30-pound weight: You can do it, but you’ll never be as fast or effective as you were made to be.

Think of it this way: The more you owe on your car or credit card payment each month, the less money you have to give to your church or ministry organization. The more money you spend servicing debt, the less you can afford to invest in building a solid financial future for your family. You can’t become a full-time missionary if you don’t have a way to pay off the $50,000 of student loans you racked up attending a Christian college.

Debt is a major issue with the American church, and there are plenty of teachers who do an excellent job of showing people how to get out of this form of slavery. We’ll talk a lot more about debt (and how to avoid it and how to get out of it) later on. But for the time being, while we’re searching our hearts to see if money has made slaves of us, doesn’t honesty require us to shine a bright light on this shadowy financial subject?

Up next: How envy infiltrates your mind